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Josh Tiessen
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Josh Tiessen
The Ferret Trials
Oil on panel
12 x 12 inches
Josh Tiessen
Rehs Contemporary Galleries, Inc., New York City
In the early months of 2020, it was widely believed that Covid-19 was a zoonotic virus originating naturally from either bats or pangolins in the wet markets of Wuhan, China. However, due to mounting evidence, the FBI, U.S. Energy Department, and investigative journalism publications such as The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post have concluded that it is more likely SARS-CoV-2 was leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology where lethal viruses were engineered using animal DNA. Research on gain-of-function bio-weapon viruses had already been taking place in the United States under the watch of NIH director Dr. Francis Collins. Due to the obvious risk as a national bio-hazard, this research was paused in 2014 by President Obama. Dr. Anthony Fauci and the National Institute of Health continued to fund gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China via EcoHealth Alliance grants, a fact which was first exposed by the White Coat Waste Project.

The Wuhan Laboratory houses a massive Experimental Animal Centre with thousands of cages containing genetically engineered mice, ferrets, bats, rabbits, and dogs. According to a Wuhan University assessment report in 2019, "There is a lot of debris in the laboratory… [it] is crowded & chaotic… Students are not wearing lab coats… Chemical waste & household waste mixed, temporary storage cabinets have simple disposal of biochemical waste.” The Journal of Biosafety and Biosecurity expressed concerns about the quality of animal experiments done there with highly infectious agents, warning that “The infectious animals may escape and cause a potential hazard to humans and the environment when cage lids or doors are not properly locked.” [i]

In my painting, a lone ferret lays deceased on a lab table with a syringe––perhaps one of the many experimental injections for risky gain-of-function research. This work is a lament for the atrocities of vivisection (animal testing). The seven rose petals are symbolic of a funeral. It is my way of eulogizing the Black-Footed Ferret, the most commonly used species for coronavirus vaccine experiments, due to its lung structure resembling that of humans. While at first ferrets showed promising signs of antibody response, many died later when exposed to the wild virus [iii]. Today animals are experimented on in labs all over the world and, as a result, just like the ferrets many of them prematurely perish due to compromised immune systems.

While we mourn the 3 million human deaths caused by Covid-19, I believe the pandemic needs to be re-framed as a cautionary tale for what happens when we “trust the science”––turning a blind-eye to scientists who forego ethics and wisdom, enamoured by money for their mad-science experiments. The pandemic thus exposed the frailty of so-called scientific progress.

Josh Tiessen

[i] Journal of Biosafety and Biosecurity by Guo et al. (2019) “Biosafety and data quality considerations
for animal experiments with highly infectious agents at ABSL-3 facilities.”
[ii] Lab Report, Wuhan University, 2019.
[iii] Dr. Jospeh Mercola, The Truth About COVID-19, 229, 232.


Born in 1995 in Moscow, Russia, Josh Tiessen is an international award-winning artist based near Toronto, Canada. Tiessen is best known for his hyper-surreal shaped oil paintings, which take up to 1700 hours to complete, and reflect the interaction between the natural world and human-made structures, drawing upon his studies in philosophy and theology.

As a young artist Tiessen was designated one of the world's top ten prodigy artists by Huffington Post, and the only known male art prodigy in North America by Dr. J. Ruthsatz, global prodigy expert. As a teenager he was juried in as the youngest member of International Guild of Realism among foremost realist artists from around the world, Artists for Conservation and Society of Animal Artists, elite groups of the top nature and wildlife artists worldwide. Art Renewal Center designated him Associate Living Master, and New York based gallery Jonathan LeVine Projects awarded him First Place from 2000 artists in their international competition Search for the Next Great Artist. LeVine presented the emerging artist’s debut international solo exhibition “Streams in the Wasteland” in May of 2019.

Mentored by masters like acclaimed Canadian artist Robert Bateman, Tiessen has exhibited his work since 2006 in over 100 exhibitions including the National Gallery of Canada and prominent galleries in the United States. He has sold over 150 original works and hundreds of limited edition giclée prints to private and corporate Canadian and international collectors.

Featured over 200 times in the press & media (Forbes, American Art Collector, International Artist), speaking and teaching at 60 venues, and making 90 invited art donations to charitable organizations, Tiessen established the Arts for a Change Foundation. This prolific artist has garnered over 60 awards and honours including International Guild of Realism Creative Achievement, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and Canada's Top 20 Under 20, for his artistic accomplishment and philanthropic work. 

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